Jimmy Stone (Anthony Tullo) lives with his loving wife, Lindsey (Cassie Nadeau), on his family farm, and all is well. Or at least it was, before the arrival of the unhinged Willy Basin (Jeff Joslin). Willy has become a menace to the local community, smart enough to evade the police, and he has turned his focus on Jimmy and Lindsey.
There’s no denying that writer, director and lead actor Anthony Tullo has a commanding screen presence, and his feature film, A Secret Cross, benefits from that charm. Likewise the chemistry between Tullo and Cassie Nadeau, who plays Jimmy’s wife Lindsey, elevates a film that develops its story in a slow and deliberate manner. Overall, the acting is solid, even if some actors are tasked with playing characters with little depth.
On the less complimentary side of things, however, the score and sound edit can be overwhelming; instead of working with the film to create a natural mood that plays off the audience’s engagement, it often becomes overbearing, hitting you over the head with the mood it thinks you should be experiencing. There’s a balance to be found, but this one comes on too strong.
The narrative pacing also makes the film feel stalled, for a plot stretched too thin. The imagery for Jimmy’s childhood flashbacks, for example, becomes repetitious and over-used. A major reveal in the film’s story, that has the emotional impact of a climax, happens with about thirty minutes left to go in the film. The film uses that leftover time to wrap up another major narrative element, but it feels like a completely different film has started; as if two tonally different films were jammed together.
Overall, A Secret Cross comes off has supremely confident in some aspects and not sure enough in others. The film believes that you want to know the motivation and answer the mystery surrounding the menacing Willy, to the point that the resolution literally spells things out for you, but really the most appealing aspect of the film is the interplay and relationship between Jimmy, Lindsey and their neighbors. Instead of playing out as a psychological thriller that does its emotional damage via a nuanced build of suspense, the film seems clumsy and heavy-handed with broader strokes.
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